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The Past Tense in Polish and French

A Semantic Approach to Translation


Magdalena Karolak

This book presents the first detailed analysis of the mechanism of translating the Polish past tense into French. Grounded in the field of aspectual research, this study bridges the gap between theory and practice by presenting a set of equivalency rules for Polish past imperfective verb forms and French past tenses.
Drawing on a wide selection of Polish literary texts and their translations into French, the author analyses the translation of Polish past imperfective verbs in factual contexts and their actual uses in narration. Using the semantic theory of aspect developed by Stanisław Karolak, the author establishes rules of equivalency for imperfective uses in both languages as well as rules of equivalency between Polish past imperfective verbs and perfect tenses in French ( passé composé, passé simple and plus-que-parfait).
The translation rules developed in this study can be applied directly in translation practice as well as providing a resource for scholars of the French and Polish languages. Additionally, this book lays the foundation for future contrastive studies on aspect in languages from different language families.


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Chapter 2 Relations between tenses in French and Polish


2.1. Aspect as a research problem Any attempt to establish equivalents between the categories of two or more languages requires creating a conceptual basis as a tertium compara- tionis. Such a comparison of verbal categories is not possible without first defining the concept of aspect. The central role that aspect plays in both Polish past imperfective verbs and French past tenses makes establishing any equivalency rules impossible without such a definition. Yet, provid- ing a compact definition is more easily said than done, since this concept remains one of the most debated in contemporary linguistics research: On n’est d’accord ni sur la définition même de l’aspect, ni sur les rapports de l’aspect et du temps, ni sur la façon dont l’aspect s’exprime, ni sur la place qu’il convient de reconnaître à l’aspect dans le système verbal des dif férentes langues. (Vendryès cited in Pountain, 1983: 39) [There is no agreement even on the definition of aspect, nor on the relation of aspect and time, nor on the manner in which aspect is expressed, nor on the place that aspect should hold in the verbal system of dif ferent languages.] (my translation) The controversies related to this concept are multiple. The first problem consists in assessing whether the concept of aspect is only applicable to Slavic languages or whether it is present in the verbal systems of other Indo-European languages. Assuming that aspect exists in all Indo-European languages, the next problem is to define what...

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